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Raspberry on Black Behavior

March 13, 1988

William Raspberry, like most conservatives, displays a lack of sensitivity in his commentaries on sociopathic behavior in the Afro-American communities. "Black America Must First Put Out the Fire Within," (Op-Ed Page, Feb. 21) was a classic example.

While Raspberry told the "truth" about children born out of wedlock, "largely to adolescent mothers who lack the knowledge and the resources to get their youngsters off to a decent start in life; illicit drugs sold by blacks to blacks, turning entire communities into disaster areas; academic failure, including the deliberate rejection of academic exertion as unacceptably 'white'; the leading cause of death among young blacks is homicide, most of it involving blacks killing blacks"--such sweeping generalities must have provided an intellectual feast for conservatives and sundry racists. Most Afro-American simply don't fit that mold.

"Black America's house is on fire and the evidence is plain to see," he asserted. While he mentioned the contribution of racism to that dilemma, he suggested that the occupants of the burning house not waste time blaming it. Such time "would be far better spent forming bucket brigades to douse the flames." It's allegedly "unfair" to attribute "this dismaying conflagration to racism" and it is also a "distraction."

If somebody's house is on fire, and he lives in an urban or semi-urban area--as most Americans do--he had better call the fire department, which will fight the fire and investigate its cause thereafter. The "bucket brigade" is a throwback to another era. Anyway, if the house of black America is on fire perhaps some outsider threw an incendiary device into it.

Also, why are the conditions Raspberry bemoaned more prominent today than they were back in the 1960s? Anyway, he eschews cause-and-effect. But Americans in general can do so only at their own peril. Fires have a way of spreading--especially when fanned by the gales of intolerance. The redemption of the nation's ghettos is a Herculean task; Afro-Americans must do their part--so must the rest of society.

Even some non-black liberals must wonder why--after all legal barriers have fallen--black Americans still have so many sociological negatives. Aside from Reaganism, it's all part of what James Baldwin said "happened when they left the land and came into what the late E. Franklin Fraizer called 'the cities of destruction.' "


Phillips Ranch

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